Tag: cyclocross pits
The Good, The Bad, and The Pitiful
Apparently Richie and I are slow learners. I don’t know how many times it’s going to take us finally realize that there are other people in the world trying to get somewhere on a Friday afternoon, especially in the major metropolitan areas we seem to travel on a regular basis. In any event, we didn’t learn it this time, either. Stuck in traffic. But only for an hour or so and at this point in ‘cross season, a four hour trip that was supposed to be a three hour trip isn’t much at all; it’s when the trips ease their way into eight-nine hours that we start to whine. All three of us.
Excellent food trucks! Wafles. Waffles! Latte. Wafles .Coffee! Waffles, wafles, waffles. And the sunset.
What on earth was going on with the pits?
Let me enumerate:
- The pit entrance is. . .where? Hint. As race goes right, you go straight, then take a sharp right (avoid the spectators in the pit lane, they are just as lost as you are) swerve around the tree, then straight ahead. I think.
- Trees without hay bales standing like bouncers on all four corners of the pit. Ouch.
- Tree roots. If by some slim chance of fate, your rider had found the entrance to the pit and has entered, s/he then makes the bike switch and, adrenaline pumping, takes off like a shot, only to encounter serious root-age while still in the pit. Unless said rider has a firm grip on handlebars, it is likely the bike will go careening away, nullifying the whole point of pitting.
- Really, really fast entrances. Imagine, for a moment, that you are racing downhill on pavement. Whoosh. You are going really fast. Then imagine that you must navigate your way to the pit while going really fast. Then picture hopping an asphalt curb at a challenging angle all the while going—yes—really, really fast. That was the entrance to Pit Two on Saturday.
- Curbs on both entrance and exits. See 4 above.
- So you’ve found the entrance to the pit (probably you had to go around a lap longer than you wanted to accomplish this) you’ve gotten in! Congratulations! You switch bikes! Yay! Whoops, you slide out on the pile of oak leaves that are strewn picturesquely in the lane. Oh well, two out of three.
- On Saturday, Pit One and Pit Two were in the first third of the race. Woe betide you if you need a pit after you’ve passed Pit Two, because there’s two-thirds more race to get through.
And on Sunday, the pits were, just to put a little more spice into things, backwards. But by now, we, the pit people, had no expectations of pit-sanity and so we just shrugged our shoulders and good-naturedly helped each other out, as we do.
This week I am in Boulder, Colorado at the Cyclocross National Championships, which, for those of you unfamiliar with this sport, is sort of like steeplechase on bicycles. A course is laid out with twists and turns and barriers to jump over, stairs to climb up on, steep down hills to freak out on, and the pit. The pit is where the racer can switch to a spare bike or get an emergency repair during the race. I work in the pits. In every race where our team has a racer competing, I hold that racer’s spare bike.
And wait. When the racers come by, I set the bike up, ready to do the switch as quickly as possible if the racer needs it. Reasons for why he or she will switch bikes vary. Sometimes the course is so muddy/snowy that the gears clog up and the bikes have to be cleaned at the bike wash, or maybe something has gone wrong mechanically, in which case the rider will usually try to give a clue before they pedal away on the spare bike. Yesterday, Richie switched bikes and panted out “back is folding” before he left.
Hmmm. Is Richie’s back hurting? Is this a clue to me not to expect much in the way of results from him?
No. In fact, Richie was referring to an earlier conversation he had had with one of our team, discussing tire pressure. He had told Dan he was “afraid the back tire would fold if it didn’t have enough pressure in it.” Mystery solved. We put more air in the back tire and brought the bike to Pit 2 and had it ready for another switch when Richie came around again.
Sometimes the rider will gasp something out that I don’t quite catch. Then, I turn to my fellow pitters for translation help and we usually manage to decipher what is needed. Sometimes we don’t and so I check brakes, gears—the obvious stuff. The last resort is to yell to the rider when they come around again “what’s wrong with it?” But that is unprofessional, so we generally just try to figure something out.
When the course is really sloppy, the riders may switch bikes every half-lap. In addition to riders coming in and out of the pit as fast as possible, the pit crew needs to clean the bikes as fast as possible. The bike wash gets overcrowded, and sometimes we are reduced to just pulling the mud off with our fingers. I was at a race once where we started dumping the bikes into the lake that was next to the course to get them clean—
Oh, I see It is time to get myself up and out and over to the pits. Brittlee is racing in an hour and she might need me.